Reports surfaced this week claiming a 20-year-old Black Lives Matter activist who led a protest with hundreds of participants that turned violent at the end of July could face 15 years behind bars. San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said Monday that prosecutors are weighing if criminal charges will be filed against Tianna Arata, but underscored that the rumor that she faces a 15-year sentence is “misinformation.”
On July 21, Arata led a protest that spilled onto a California highway and included violent incidents, such as the alleged smashing of a car window with a four-year-old child inside and the assaulting of a police officer.
“A protest in the City of San Luis Obispo today resulted in significant public safety risks for protesters and community members,” the San Luis Obispo Police Department said in a statement issued July 22. “The City supports peaceful protests and the expression of free speech, but actions that put the safety of the public at risk cannot be tolerated and detract from the ability for voices to be heard at this important time.”
“Police Chief Deanna Cantrell contacted protest organizer, Tianna Arata, prior to the event and was ensured the event at Mitchell Park would be peaceful,” the department noted.
However, that was not the case, according to authorities.
“The protesters entered Highway 101, putting in jeopardy the safety of protesters, motorists, and law enforcement and blocked all lanes in both directions for nearly an hour,” the statement detailed. “Law enforcement resources were limited based on expectations of a peaceful protest. While on the freeway protesters damaged the hood of a passenger vehicle and smashed the rear window where a 4 year-old child was in the back seat and had glass shattered on him.”
“Protesters stopped and surrounded a vehicle at Monterey and California before moving toward downtown and returning to Mitchell Park,” police continued. “Some individuals were also observed chasing down and throwing objects at a vehicle.”
Arata was arrested on charges of “Participation in a Riot (PC 404), Unlawful Assembly (PC 407), Conspiracy (PC 182a), Unlawful Imprisonment (PC 236) and Resisting Arrest (PC 148),” the department said. “The decision to arrest Arata was made in coordination with the District Attorney’s Office based on Arata’s actions and the actions of the organized group. During the arrest of Arata, a San Luis Obispo Police Officer was assaulted by an individual, who was subsequently arrested for PC 405a and PC 69. The officer suffered minor injuries.”
The activist has since been released on no bail.
***Media Release***UPDATE ON JULY 21ST PROTEST IN THE CITY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO San Luis Obispo – A protest in the…
Social media posts and reports earlier in the week went viral claiming Arata is facing 15 years in prison after orchestrating the July protest.
— Sarah Baska (@SarahBaska) August 10, 2020
However, on Monday, District Attorney Dow offered some clarity.
“The review will involve examination of all of the evidence that includes many social media posts, video evidence, witness statements, and other evidence,” Dow said in a statement, according to the New York Post. “It is likely that additional investigation will be necessary before making a criminal filing decision.”
“Finally, recent social media posts and other media reports state that Ms. Arata faces 15 years in prison for her conduct,” he said. “This is patently incorrect and a reckless statement.”
Dow made clear that criminal charges against Arata are still being weighed. “Although the San Luis Obispo Police Department has listed numerous charges that they believe the evidence supports, the decision of what charges to bring is completely within the District Attorney’s authority and responsibility.”
Arata’s lawyer Patrick Fisher said earlier this week, “Prior to making their decision, I am hopeful they will review and consider not just reports from the San Luis Obispo Police Department, but also reports my investigator will have prepared by the end of this week.”
“The public attention this situation has attracted is understandable when one considers that what happened to Tianna hurts all of us,” he added. “The arrest of peaceful protesters offends our country’s core values.”
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